What worries me, though, is that teachers are losing their passion. I can't think of a teacher who didn't enter the profession because they wanted to make a positive difference for the youth of the next generation. Because of the punitive way standardized tests are being used, the forced use of canned lesson plans, and a system that promotes standardization over student growth, many teachers feel that they are unable to make the kind of difference for their students that they envisioned when they chose their profession. When you add the anti-teacher rhetoric coming from politicians and business leaders, teacher evaluation systems that put importance on factors outside of a teacher's control, salary cuts, and a growing disrespect for teaching as a profession, it has become very difficult for teachers to maintain or grow their passion. I've heard many teachers talk about how they would discourage their own children from pursuing a job as a teacher. As someone who can't think of a job that could possibly give me a better feeling of "I'm doing good", that makes me sad.
It is important for each of us to help foster that passion in our colleagues. It is imperative that we help each other focus on the positive differences we are making for our students, and not the ways others outside of our schools are finding new ways to put roadblocks in front of our students. Students with passionate teachers learn more. Schools with passionate teachers are better learning environments.
If you see a colleague doing something positive with their students, let them know about it. Better yet, tell them how it inspired you to do something similar with your students. Imitation is the greatest form of flattery, and we don't get positive feedback often enough.
Share the great things you do with your students. Talk to colleagues in the faculty room. Blog. Develop a PLN and share with them. Send pictures and descriptions to the local newspaper. Let your example inspire others.
Collaborate, collaborate, and then collaborate some more. Share your ideas with other teachers, even if they aren't complete. Discuss ideas for lessons, projects, and formative assessments. Get excited together about really cool things you are going to do with your students.
There was a time a few years ago that my passion was starting to wane. I'm a bit embarrassed to admit that I was even leading professional development sessions on how to raise reading test scores by focusing on test-questions as a new genre. It sickens me to think about it. Test scores went up, but I didn't enjoy my job and I'm pretty sure my students weren't enjoying my class as much as they do now. I was doing a great job of developing kids who could pass tests, but couldn't think, and I was getting little enjoyment out of my job because I knew that what I was doing really didn't matter. I knew those test scores were meaningless for my students compared to the things I was ignoring, but I was trying to be a "good teacher" according to the rules set forth by those whose concern for my students lags far, far behind their desire to raise campaign funds for reelection.
I am so thankful that I was introduced to Plurk (and later Twitter and Facebook) where I have grown networks of educators who inspire me daily. Because of all of you and the interactions we have, I love being a teacher as much as ever, my students are loving school more than ever, and more learning is taking place in my classroom than ever before. Developing my PLNs has allowed me to rediscover the passion I had for student learning, and helped me realize that the best way to be a "good teacher" is to follow one simple rule: Do what's best for your students.
*** Special thanks to Maureen Devlin, whose question and follow up conversation on Twitter inspired this post. Just another example of a way that building one's PLN can give inspiration!